In June, the FBI got a warrant to hunt through the Google accounts of Abedemi Rufai, a Nigerian state government official.
What they found, they said in a sworn affidavit, was all the ingredients for a “massive” cyberfraud on U.S. government benefits: stolen bank, credit card and tax information of Americans. Money transfers. And emails showing dozens of false unemployment claims in seven states that paid out $350,000.
Rufai was arrested in May at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York as he prepared to fly first class back to Nigeria, according to court records. He is being held without bail in Washington state, where he has pleaded not guilty to five counts of wire fraud.
Rufai’s case offers a small window into what law enforcement officials and private experts say is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated against the U.S., a significant part of it carried out by foreigners.